Because startups are so much smaller than many established companies, and because they may grow quickly, there are additional considerations worth taking into account when negotiating a job offer from a startup:
Cash versus equity. If your risk tolerance is reasonably high, you might ask for an offer with more equity and less cash. If a company begins to do well, it’ll likely “level up” lower salaries (bringing them closer to market average) even if you got more equity up front. On the other hand, if you ask for more cash and less equity, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to negotiate to get more equity later on, since equity is increasingly scarce over time (at least in a successful company!). Entrepreneur and venture capitalist Mark Suster stresses the need to level up by scaling pay and spending, focusing appropriately at each funding stage. In the very early days of a startup, it’s not uncommon for employees to have higher salaries than the company’s founders.*
Title. Negotiating title and exact details of your role early on may not matter as much in a small and growing company, because your role and the roles of others may change a lot, and quickly. It’s more important that you respect the founders and leaders of the company. It’s more important that you feel you are respected.